Sometimes on Saturdays he would come up the path waving in his hand a letter covered with post-marks. It would be from his father to his stepmother; and Madam Beck would generally read it by herself first, and then it would be read aloud, Elizabeth listening with strained attention—she was always so afraid that there might be something bad about Salve.
One Sunday she remarked that Carl wore in the buttonhole of his uniform a wild flower which she had thrown away. It might have been the purest accident; but she knew that he had seen her with it in her hand. The same day they had wild strawberries at dinner, and there were no strangers, and he broke out all in a moment, “Yes, I’d sooner ten thousand times have wild strawberries than garden ones. They have quite another taste and smell.”
It was a natural remark for any one to make. But she thought he had looked with peculiar earnestness at her as he made it, and afterwards he had fixed his eyes upon his plate for a long while without raising them. She felt that the remark had been meant for her, and altogether that day there was something about him that made her uneasy—he gazed at her so often.
Madame Beck happened to have just then a long list of household necessaries required from Arendal, and Carl said that if some one would go with him in the boat the next morning to help him with the parcels, he would execute her commissions himself. When Madame Beck suggested Elizabeth he eagerly assented; but the colour rushed into Elizabeth’s cheeks, and with an angry toss of her head, which she didn’t make any attempt to conceal, she left the room.
As he was standing alone outside some little time after, she came up to him, and said, looking him straight in the face—
“I don’t go into Arendal with you, Herr Beck.”
“No?—and why not, Elizabeth?” he asked, with affected indifference, and trying to meet her look.
“I don’t go,” she repeated, her voice trembling with pride and anger—“that is all I have to say;” and she turned from him, and left him gazing after her, partly in confusion, and partly in admiration of the magnificently proud way in which she crossed the turf to the house again.
The expedition was given up; and in spite of Carl’s finesse, it came out inadvertently that it was on account of Elizabeth having refused to go alone in the boat with him, which Madam Beck found very commendable on her part. Indeed she ought to have known herself, she said, that it was scarcely proper; but at the same time, she was decidedly of opinion that the more becoming course for Elizabeth would have been to speak to her mistress first.
The house in the town was undergoing repairs this year, which kept the family out in the country until rather late in the autumn. But the glorious September days prolonged the summer, and they could still sit out on the steps in the evening and enjoy the beauty and the sentiment of the season, and the rich variety of the autumn tints reflected on the still waters of the Sound.